A Weird Western Saga
in "Serenity: season II"... Some dark force seems to have it in for Marshal Boxer -- first he is attacked by a strange ape-like creature, then he is snatched up by a flying monster. Only the quick thinking of Deputy Lake saved him from an unknown fate (though Raven
Clark suspected the marshal deserved whatever he got). But given that the marshal had often been at the root of the evil in Serenity before, the fact that he is as much in the dark as any of them about the cause raises its own disturbing questions...
Raven looked sideways at Lili, then back to the construction site. A month ago, they had broken ground and the foundation of the Serenity Rooming House and Betting Parlor was coming along nicely. Eli Gunderson, who once considered Lili one of his own, had the hired hands working at a productive pace.
Raven shook her head. “Trapping the air, huh?”
The little girl licked her all day sucker. “Do they wish it ill?”
Raven almost smiled. “No. I don’t think so.”
Lili squealed and clung to Raven’s legs. Startled, Raven moved to pry the child away before they both fell over. She felt a presence behind her and twisted around.
Standing there, face soaked in tears, was Elizabeth Brynne. “Nolan’s dead, isn’t he?
“The Marshal keeps telling me he’s out town; he’s coming back. But I know he’s not. You’re the only one in this town on speaking terms with the truth, Miss Clark. So, please, tell me; is my fiancé dead?”
Lili scooted round Raven’s legs and squatted there. Raven blew out a sigh, her chin wrinkling. “Yes.”
Elizabeth collapsed to the dust, sobbing. Raven moved to her and wrapped her arms around Brynne’s shoulders. Lili held her ground.
Raven caught Elizabeth’s attention. “Come to my office. I’ll tell you everything.”
“So.” Elizabeth Brynne looked up from her tea, her eyes raw from tearing. “Who actually murdered my Nolan?”
“Uhm.” Raven glanced upstairs, where Lili had run the instant they’d returned to the Serenity Star office. “We never found out exactly. We assume it was one of The Four’s underlings.” (but Raven knows it was really little Lily, being controlled by The Four, way back in Season One, Ep. 10: "Veritas" ~ the ed.)
“Oh.” Elizabeth stared into her cup. “Everyone told me it was a mistake loving a man so devoted to his work. My mother once asked me what I’d do if Nolan was killed.”
“I’m sure you felt it a risk worth taking.” Raven’s gaze floated from Elizabeth. (Raven and Nolan had been lovers, remember? ~ the ed.) “You felt he was worth any risk.”
“He was. We were.” Elizabeth looked up. “I . . . I do have one question, about the current state of things.”
Raven felt comfortable looking Brynne in the eye again. “Certainly.”
“Well, the marshal.” Elizabeth wiped a tear from her cheek with the back of her hand. “If he was the surrogate for this . . . Four; if he was plotting against the town all along, why is he still marshal? Shouldn’t he be in jail or hanged?”
Raven guffawed before she could check herself. “Good question. The answer is a whole other story.”
“I’d like to hear it, if you have the time.”
“Of course.” Raven hopped off the wobbly desk, grabbed a chair, and sat opposite Elizabeth. “You’re entitled to know.
“When Marshal Boxer, Deputy Lake, Lili, and I returned to Serenity from the Outskirts mine, Mayor Brubaker and then Acting Marshal Richter met us at the town limits. . . .”
Several weeks earlier...
Richter raised a hand, and the riders stopped. “Howdy, Stu. Any luck?”
Boxer cocked an eyebrow. Lake glanced at Raven, then looked at Richter with knit brows. “Uh . . . yes. I reckon you could say that.”
Richter’s and the mayor’s eyes lit up. Brubaker stepped forward. “You found him?”
Lili stirred in Lake’s arms. The deputy rubbed the child’s back, glanced quizzically at Boxer, and addressed the mayor. “N-no, I didn’t find him. Who was I looking for, exactly?”
Richter and Brubaker exchanged a glance. “Why, the marshal, of course.”
Richter stepped forward, indicating Boxer and Raven with his shotgun. “Who’re your friends here, Stu?”
“Indeed.” Brubaker pushed a monocle into his eye. “And what is the meaning of this child?”
“What the hell is this?” Boxer dismounted and crossed to Richter. “I’m right here, Bump. It’s me, the marshal.”
Richter opened his mouth to speak, but Brubaker stepped past him to face Boxer. “Now, see here, sir. I don’t know who you are or what you want, but neither you, this strange woman, nor this bedraggled child is marshal for the town of Serenity. Our marshal is Grady O’Halloran, and he’s been missing since yesterday.”
Boxer and Raven exchanged a wide-eyed glance. No such bolt of realization struck Lake. “Uh Bump, I’m not sure who this O’Halloran is, but our marshal has always been—”
“He’s a lunatic, mayor!” Raven pointed at Boxer. “He accosted my niece and me in the desert, claiming to be a lawman. I thank the Lord your Deputy Lake came upon us when he did.” She leaned past Apollo’s head, closer to Mayor Brubaker’s. “I think he meant to have his way with me . . . and the little girl.”
The monocle fell out of the mayor’s piggy eye. “What?”
“Oh, fuck no. No way it’s going down like this.” Boxer reached for his gun, but a loud click stayed his hand. Richter aimed his shotgun between Boxer’s eyes. “That’ll do right there, mister. Jesus, Stu, this looneybird’s heeled? Yew didn’t see?”
“Uh, sorry, must’ve slipped my mind.” Lake passed the groggy Lili to Raven, then dismounted and hurried around the horses to pluck Boxer’s revolver from its holster.
Boxer raised his hands to shoulder height, calm. “Look Mr. Mayor, it’s like I told your deputy; I’m a bounty hunter. This woman abducted that child she’s holding. The girl’s family hired me to bring her back. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that a woman and a child were traveling the desert alone?”
“Kinda.” Richter and Brubaker exchanged a glance, but the deputy kept his shotgun trained on Boxer.
Raven nodded at Boxer. “If he’s a bounty hunter, what’s he doing wearing that star? You heard him; he claimed to be your marshal when we first arrived. He’s insane!”
While Raven had Richter’s attention, Boxer snatched the badge from his chest and stuffed it in a pocket. “I use the star all the time, gives me the edge over my quarry. I meant to say I was a marshal, not your marshal.”
Richter’s brow was fraught with deep creases. “Stu?”
Lake looked from Boxer to Raven. Both stared at him. “Well—”
“Oh, I’ve heard enough!” Brubaker threw up his hands. “They both look crazy, sound crazier, and we’ve got bigger problems. For all we know, one of them killed Marshal O’Halloran. Arrest them both!”
At midnight, Richter was balanced on two chair legs, feet on his desk; a tendril of thick drool crept from the corner of his mouth as he snored. Lili, snoring with almost as much fervor, slept in a ball on the deputy’s desk.
Lake crossed to the dim holding cell and glared at its occupants. “Now, you listen here, and listen close. I’ve spent months doing half the things I’ve done out of loyalty to one of you and the other half out of faith in the other, and look where it’s landed me? I’m still on the outside looking in at the two of you, no one in town knows who the hell you are anymore, and I still have no fucking clue what’s going on.”
Boxer smirked. “You want to change places? Get the keys.”
“Oh, fuck you.” Lake jammed a palm into the bars, his voice a vicious hiss. “You are gonna sit there and tell me what all this business with Paige, Grimm, the mine, and those four monsters was all about, or I swear to God, I’ll find a way to keep you both in there until you tear each other apart!”
Boxer and Raven exchanged a glance. She nodded. “You might as well start; I think I’ve figured it out.”
“All right.” Boxer sighed, got to his feet and leaned against the rear wall. “I wasn’t born to a human mother. The Four created me ten years ago to take over as Serenity town marshal.”
Raven was saucer-eyed. “Ok, maybe I hadn’t figured everything out.”
Boxer smiled. “I was supposed to run the place as I saw fit and select four townspeople to serve as hosts for The Four’s return to physical form.”
“That part I’d guessed.” Raven reclined on her bunk.
Lake scratched his head. “But, how were you able to take over as marshal? And why didn’t The Four just jump into the folks you picked right away?”
“Well.” Boxer crossed his arms over his chest. “The Four’s power was limited. They only had energy enough to create me and cast a spell over Serenity that would erase Marshal O’Halloran from everyone’s mind. The spell also caused you all to live the same year over and over, without aging. It would take eleven years for The Four to store enough power to emerge from the mine. The spell was designed to keep Serenity stuck in time, so—”
“So everything and everyone would be static; kept ripe for whenever The Four were ready to feed.” Raven shook her head. “Quite a plan.”
Boxer grinned. “They sure thought so.”
“So.” Lake removed his hat. “You’re telling me, I’ve been the same age for ten years?”
“Yes.” Boxer’s grin melted. “You haven’t been able to form any new memories from year-to-year in that time either. Kind of depressing for me to watch.”
Lake tipped over against the bars. Raven looked from him to Boxer. “Tell him the rest. Tell him how you betrayed The Four, so you could take over Serenity for good.”
Boxer’s eyebrows arched. “Wow, you’re pretty good, as it turns out.”
Lake peered at Boxer between two bars. “That’s what you did?”
“Oh yes.” Boxer strut forward. “I knew if they returned to physical form, The Four would have no further use for me. Maybe they’d kill me, or unmake me, I didn’t know which, or even if they’d dispose of me at all. What I did know was my days of running Serenity would be over.”
“So.” Raven swung her feet off the bunk and stood. “He waited for the right opportunity, such as the murder of Nolan Paige driving Grimm, you, and me to the Outskirts mine, and—”
“He stepped aside and turned Mr. Grimm loose on The Four.” (We saw it happen...back in Serenity (season one), Episode 12: "Trio" ` the ed.) Lake’s hat was back on. “But, how’d you know Grimm could take them?”
Boxer opened his mouth, but it was Raven who answered. “I can handle that one. The Four weren’t strong enough to descend on Serenity, so the marshal knew they were powerless outside the mine. By letting someone as strong as Grimm into the chamber, Boxer knew The Four would have to use their decade of accumulated power to combat him.”
“That’s right.” Boxer’s face could barely host his grin. “Paige figure that part out?”
Raven’s face hardened, but she nodded.
“I thought so.” Boxer looked back to Lake. “Anyway, either The Four would kill Grimm, or he’d kill them. Either way, my masters’ power would be so diminished; they’d never be able to complete their plan.” He winked. “But I was pretty sure Grimm would take them.”
“Then.” Raven crossed her arms over her chest. “The marshal figured he’d ambush the survivors in the mine, no matter who they were. If it were any of the remaining Four in their weakened state, he’d polish them off. If it was us, he’d take us back to town for a little humiliation under the iron fist.”
Boxer chuckled. “I was so glad it was the latter. But there was one thing, I admit, I didn’t count on.”
Lake’s brow furrowed. “What’s that?”
“The spell.” Raven answered. “With The Four dead, the spell over Serenity was broken. Everything reverted to the way it was ten years ago the instant Grimm destroyed The Four. That’s why when we got back, Richter and the mayor didn’t know who we were, but did know you. That’s why they’re looking for Marshal O’Halloran. In their minds, the last ten years haven’t taken place.”
“So.” Lake stroked his chin. “Because I was with you when the spell was broken . . ”
Boxer nodded. “You retained your memory. Actually, the spell only covered the town, so you started to age and form new memories the instant you left; you just didn’t know it. That’s why I kept folks in town as much as I could and discouraged visitors.”
Lake grinned. “That why you never let us have a whore house?”
The two men chuckled. Raven cut them off. “So, now everyone knows everything—”
“Actually.” Lake pointed a finger in the air. “We don’t know everything.” He turned to Raven. “How did you fix it so that stone One would shatter when he swung on you?” (Serenity (season one), Episode 13: "Battle" ~ the ed.)
Raven went pale. “Oh . . . that? Well, that’s going to remain my secret, I’m afraid.”
“Heh.” Boxer snorted. “That’s what I thought. You don’t know why pure evil can’t physically touch you any more than The Four did.”
Raven’s snort was her only reply...
..and back to the present...
“A week later, O’Halloran was still nowhere to be found.” Raven took the empty teacup from Elizabeth Brynne. “The town named Lake marshal. He vouched for Boxer and me, released us, and made Boxer his deputy ‘to keep an eye on him.’ You see where that’s gotten him. Right back where he started.”
Brynne shook her head. “Boxer’s diabolical.”
“Lake convinced the mayor to let me move into this office, which I owned before the spell was broken. I took Lili on as my niece. No one remembers her previous arrival in town or her possession by The Four.”
“Well.” Elizabeth arose. “It’s quite a story. Thank you for telling me, Miss Clark. I feel a bit better now. I knew I would find the truth in you.”
Raven stared into the empty teacup. “Yeah. Now you know everything.”
Elizabeth Brynne left the Serenity Star office and strode up the street. Raven emerged to find Marshal Boxer standing at her shoulder.
“Tell her you were fucking the Quill?”
“Tell her your little demon murdered him?”
“Told her everything, huh?”
“I told her enough.” Raven stared at the retreating figure in the billowing dress. “I told her enough to keep on living.”
In her bedroom above the Serenity Star office, Lili Clark cried into her pillow.
“Auntie and nanny sipping on a Saturday. Why?
Next - Episode 5: Duel Redux
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